UK Release Date: 24th October 2017
Runtime: 130 minutes
Director: Taika Waititi
Writer: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Tessa Thompson, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Taika Waititi, Karl Urban, Idris Elba
Synopsis: When Asgard is taken over by the villainous Hela and Thor finds himself on a bizarre gladiatorial planet, he must team up with whoever he can find to reclaim his home world.
It’s become a little facile in recent years to rubbish Marvel for its devotion to the established superhero movie formula. That’s a point that, while it may apply to some of the studio’s more recent releases, falls flat when presented with the psychedelic visual invention of Doctor Strange and the unruly tone of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. There is certainly something unusual about Marvel’s latest film, which channels the unique spirit of Kiwi filmmaker Taika Waititi to create a superhero movie that feels like a modern spin on the shonky sci-fi of the past. Gordon’s Alive! And so is Thor: Ragnarok…
In a long line of interesting directorial hires for Marvel, Waititi is perhaps the strangest. The man behind Maori oddity Boy, fly-on-the-wall vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows and charming adventure Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an oddball choice to helm a $200m action blockbuster. That said, it’s a call that just about pays off with a movie that is even funnier than the Shane Black-directed Iron Man 3 and avoids many of that film’s pitfalls – even though it feels as disposable as a plastic spork.
We first meet the eponymous Asgardian deity (Chris Hemsworth) being held captive by the fire demon Surtur, but it’s little surprise when he breaks free and, after swiftly dethroning Loki (Tom Hiddleston), he goes off in search of his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). The cosy family reunion is ruined, though, by death goddess Hela (Cate Blanchett), who banishes the brothers to a strange junk planet. There, they meet the enigmatic Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who puts Thor into his gladiatorial arena with a champion that, if you’ve seen any of the trailers for the film, you will know is a certain big, green friend from work (Mark Ruffalo).
On a pure adrenaline level, Thor: Ragnarok is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. For the two hours of its running time, it delivers a gag rate more akin to a network sitcom than a gargantuan mega-blockbuster, with the oddball humour really playing to the strengths of Waititi as a director. The tone is also firmly within the wheelhouse of star Chris Hemsworth who, after completely stealing the Ghostbusters reboot, delivers another fine comedic turn. He’s at peace with the inherent ridiculousness of his character, which meshes nicely with Waititi’s own style – most notably in the shape of rock alien Korg, voiced by Waititi himself with a hilariously incongruent, soft Kiwi accent.
This is absolutely a film that throws an awful lot of pieces on to the board, but they don’t always fit together. It’s like Waititi tries to make a film using the bishop from a chess set, a 12-sided die and a couple of tiddlywinks. For every flash of undeniable brilliance, there’s a scene or two – usually featuring Cate Blanchett’s sorely underused Hela – that feels shoe-horned in so the superhero fans aren’t short-changed. The action sequences feel like they’re a distraction for a filmmaker who wants to focus on quirky comedy above all else.
It’s this focus that is both the greatest strength and weakness of Ragnarok. When it relaxes into its comedy, it’s a delight packed with memorable gags that are delivered with comfort by actors secure and confident in their roles, whether it’s Hemsworth, a sneery Tom Hiddleston or Mark Ruffalo continuing to effortlessly prove he’s the best ever big screen Hulk. This swagger, though, excludes some of the more serious characters, with Tessa Thompson‘s intriguing Valkyrie not given the arc she deserves. It all combines to make this a throwaway film – one that begins to fade almost as soon as the cinema doors swing shut.
With critics and fans all over the world frantically rearranging the top of their ‘Best of Marvel’ lists to accommodate Thor: Ragnarok, it’s shocking how much this film has been taken to heart. It’s an enjoyable, slightly ramshackle fantasy romp with a refreshing sense of silliness for a world that’s desperately in need of a giggle. As a palate cleanser before the inevitable carnage of Avengers: Infinity War, this is enough to keep the MCU train chugging, but it’s not even close to being a game-changer.
Pop or Poop?
It’s tough not to be charmed by Thor: Ragnarok, which might be the most purely enjoyable movie Marvel has released since Joss Whedon‘s quippy first Avengers film. Taika Waititi has stamped his idiosyncratic tale on this story, bringing the best out of Marvel mainstays Hemsworth and Ruffalo in the process. The less established names fare rather worse, with Cate Blanchett in particular reduced to plot device, despite her elegantly high-camp performance.
Unfortunately, it all zips off down the Bifrost and out of your brain, even as you sit waiting for the post-credit sequences.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.